Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our March Kitchen

I've been busy making things in the kitchen, but too busy to sit down and write up full posts on them, so here's a quick photo rundown of what's been going on in our kitchen lately.

Homemade Almond Butter

I researched several recipes to figure out how to make nut butters.  For my first batch I wanted to use up some almonds from our freezer and it ends up that's the most difficult one to make.  It seems almonds take the longest to process, about 20 minutes with a standard food processor.  Might as well give it a shot though!  I figured if it burned out my food processor, I'd get a new (bigger) one.  :)

homemade almond butter
I toasted 1 cup of whole almonds in the oven, threw them in the food processor, and Sonny D ran the machine until they were smooth.   I added a touch of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and some honey.  It made enough nut butter to fill a 4 oz canning jar with a little bit leftover. 

I might have toasted the almonds a little longer than I should have because the almond butter ended up looking and maybe tasting a little dark.  Not burnt at all, just darker than expected.  They were skin-on almonds, so that gave it a darker color and maybe that also contributed to the deeper flavor.  Sonny D kept asking if it was chocolate (because of the brown color) and I had to tell him no.  I had thought about adding chocolate, but I wanted to keep it simple this first time.   

This was SO good.  I didn't eat much of it, but used it for Sonny D's sandwiches for preschool.  I made sure to label them as "homemade almond butter" in case anyone there thought it was Nutella since it looked pretty similar.  Didn't want to be branded as a neglectful mom serving her son essentially frosting for lunch since it's my son's first few weeks at this preschool.  :)

For my next batch of nut butter I'm going to make hemp seed butter (I'm such a hippie!), possibly regular or maybe that will be my first chocolate batch.  I ordered hemp seed online since it's a separate trip to a specialty store if I buy it in town and I never need anything else at that store and rarely make it over there.  When the box arrived I realized it was more than I was expecting, there were four bags in the order, so I've got a ton of hemp seeds that I don't know what to do with other than putting a single tablespoon in my morning oatmeal.  

Asian Meatballs

I threw together Asian meatballs with some ground turkey and seasonings.  I was out of eggs, so I used a flax "egg" as the glue to hold them together and I think it worked out quite well.  I used my larger cookie scoop to shape them, but I forgot that meat shrinks when you cook it, so they ended up a little smaller than expected.  I think I need an even-larger cookie scoop for things like this.
Asian meatballs
I liked the tangy ginger in them, they were slightly zippy.  They were pretty good, nothing amazing. Next time I think I would want to add more meaty flavor, maybe mixing in lean pork or beef.  I'd also love to add some chopped and sauteed mushrooms for more 'umami'.  Those would be a secret though since the guys don't like mushrooms, so don't tell my family!

Banana-Oat-Yogurt Pancakes

Sonny D hasn't been eating the Greek yogurt I buy for him so I used some of it to make pancakes for dinner.  I'm a huge fan of breakfast-for-dinner meals... well, breakfast is great any time! 

I mixed together rolled oats and an equal amount of almond milk at lunchtime to give it time to hydrate.  When I came home we added a frozen banana (when it melts it disappears into the batter) and some vanilla yogurt and other ingredients. We whizzed the batter up with the immersion blender and poured out pancakes onto the electric skillet at 275 degrees. 

banana, oatmeal, and yogurt pancake batter
All of the alternative pancakes (without flour) I make look nice and puffy while they're cooking, but they deflate after removing from the heat.  They still taste good, but are thin.  I need to figure out how to make them stay puffed up.  Less heat?  Are they not cooked all the way through?  Should I add some flour?

These pancakes weren't noticeably flavored by the oatmeal or yogurt, but I liked knowing they were in there. 

Cheesy Sausage Pasta Skillet

I liked how this was all made in one skillet. I browned the sausage, then added the chicken stock, pasta, veggies (secret shredded zucchini!), and a bit of leftover evaporated milk.  It cooked pretty quickly, maybe 15 minutes after adding the pasta?  Then at the end I crumbled in some leftover cheese slices from our soup party to make it cheesy.  Nothing goes to waste in our house! 
cheesy sausage pasta skillet
I think this was supposed to be finished off under the broiler for maximum toasty-goodness, but since the broiler is so hot I'm always afraid I'll let it go too long and burn it, plus we're usually ready to start eating right away, so I consider those 'brown under the broiler' steps optional.

Broiled Fish Filets

Sonny D usually loves fish and recently Husband Jeff mentioned that he prefers swai to walleye or tilapia, so I decided to make broiled fish.  It comes together really quickly.  I mixed together flax seed meal and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  I tried a simple dredging of egg wash then the seasoned breading, but the breading mixture didn't stick too well.  C'est la vie. I threw them under the broiler for 10 minutes and we were ready.
Fish coated in flax seed meal and Parmesan

The taste was good, I liked the nuttiness of the flax seed meal.  The flavor of the Parmesan was lost and it could have used some salt and maybe some herbs, but I liked it a lot. I served this with a box of Near East wheat pilaf made with chicken stock, which was delicious. 

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

This was brown rice, roasted sweet potato (roasted a couple days ahead of time), toasted sunflower seeds (threw them in the oven with the sweet potato for the last few minutes),  three slices of bacon chopped up, some frozen leftover feta cheese from our soup party, and a simple dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and black pepper. 
Roasted sweet potato salad.
I based this on a recipe I saw on one of the many blogs I read, but customized it based on what I had in the house and what I wanted to include.  It originally called for carrots but I skipped them because I didn't think the texture would work well here and also skipped the onion since it was raw and seemed like it would be too bold and intrusive.  

Husband Jeff thought the bacon didn't really add much, but I liked it.  It was a slight smoky, meatiness that hung out in the background without being too much.  The salty feta was a great complement to the sweet potato. 

Sonny D's Salad

Sonny D's dinner salad.
Lately Sonny D has wanted to try our salads at dinnertime, so the other day I asked if he wanted his own salad.  He was excited and said yes.  So we poured him out some greens and added a few croutons on top.  He didn't want to wait and was insistent that we were forgetting the dressing, but we waited a few minutes until we were ready to eat before adding dressing. His choice was ranch dressing rather than caesar.  He loved it so much that he ate three bowls!  What 3-year-old does that?!

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!